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Deuteronomy 14


Improper Mourning The Lifestyle of a Holy Person A Forbidden Mourning Practice Against An Idolatrous Practice
14:1-2 14:1-2 14:1-2 14:1-2
Clean and Unclean Meat   Clean and Unclean Animals Clean and Unclean Animals
14:3-8 14:3-8 14:3-8 14:3-8
14:9-10 14:9-10 14:9-10 14:9-10
14:11-20 14:11-20 14:11-18 14:11-20
14:21 14:21a 14:21a 14:21a
  14:21b 14:21b 14:21b
Tithing Principles   The Law of the Tithe The Annual Tithe
14:22-27 14:22-27 14:22-26 14:22-23
    14:27-29 The Third-year Tithe
14:28-29 14:28-29   14:28-29

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Deuteronomy 14:1-2 is a preliminary affirmation that Israel, as YHWH's unique people (cf. Exod. 19:5-6), must live like it!

B. Deuteronomy 14:3-16:17 is a recapitulation of some main covenant requirements of God's people set forth in Exodus - Numbers

1. Clean vs. unclean food in 14:1-21 is originally found in Lev. 11:1-23.

2. Tithes in 14:22-29 are originally given in Num. 18:21-29.

3. Debt cancellation in 15:1-11 is originally given in Lev. 28:8-38.

4. Freeing Hebrew slaves in 15:12-18 is originally given in Lev. 25:38-55.

5. Redeeming the firstborn in 15:19-23 is originally given in Exod. 13:1-16.

6. The three annual pilgrim feasts in 16:1-17 are originally given in Lev. 23:4-8 and also Num. 28:16-29:40.

(Outline from Old Testament Theology, by Paul R. House, p. 184)

7. The summary nature of Deuteronomy is clearly seen. Often the laws are slightly changed for the new setting.

It must be stated again that moderns do not know the how, when, or why of the structure of OT books.



1"You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. 2For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth."

14:1 "You are the sons of the Lord" Notice the family metaphors used as covenant terminology (cf. 1:31; 8:5; 32:5). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHERhood of God at 8:5. Note the three special titles for the Israelites used in vv. 1-2.

▣ "cut yourselves" The verb is BDB 151, KB 177, Hithpoel (a rare variant of the Hithpael stem) imperfect and is often found in "gashing" or "cutting" texts. This was a pagan worship practice (either to get the attention of the deity or cause feelings of mourning for the dead, cf. Lev. 19:28; 21:5; I Kgs. 18:28; Jer. 16:6; 41:5; 47:5; 48:37).


▣ "shave your forehead" This ("making baldness, BDB 901) also refers to the mourning rites of surrounding nations (cf. Jer. 16:6; 41:5; Ezek. 27:31; 44:20). In contrast (1) Israeli priests were not allowed to shave at all (cf. Lev. 21:5) and (2) Israelites were not even allowed to trim their beards (cf. Lev. 19:27). Many of the laws of Israel were given in direct opposition to regular Canaanite practices!

▣ "for the sake of the dead" The mourning rites described are connected to:

1. ancestor worship

2. Ba'al worship (the dying [winter] and rising [spring] nature god of the Canaanite pantheon)


14:2 "holy people" The concept relates to Israel's task of revealing YHWH and His Messiah (cf. Exod.19:6; Deut. 7:6). See Special Topic at 4:6.

Deuteronomy typifies covenant language, which describes deity as "the Lord your God" and His "holy," "chosen," "special treasure" people (cf. 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 28:9; 29:12-13). Also notice Jeremiah (cf. 7:23; 11:4; 13:11; 24:7; 30:22; 31:1,33; 32:38). And of course, who can forget Hosea 1-3!

▣ "the Lord has chosen you" The verb (BDB 103, KB 119, Qal perfect) is used of God's sovereign choice of:

1. Abraham, Gen. 12:1; Neh. 9:7

2. the Patriarchs, Deut. 7:8

3. the descendants of the Patriarchs, Deut. 4:37; 10:15

4. Israel, Deut. 7:6; Ps. 135:4; Isa. 44:1,8; 43:10; Ezek. 20:5

5. Jeshurun (Israel or Jerusalem), Deut. 32:15; 33:5,26; Isa. 44:2

6. an Israeli king (a symbol of YHWH's rule, which would foreshadow David [cf. I Sam. 10:24; 16:8,9,10; II Sam. 6:21], who became a Messianic figure), Deut. 17:14-17

7. place for His name to dwell (i.e., central sanctuary), Deut. 12:5,11,14,18,21,26; 14:24; 15:20; 16:2,6,7,11,15; 17:8,10; 31:11


God's sovereignty and purpose is expressed in His choice of Israel. God's "choice" in the OT is always related to service, not necessarily salvation, as it is in the NT. Israel was to reveal YHWH to the whole world, so that all the world might be saved (cf. Gen. 12:3; quoted in Acts 3:25 and Gal. 3:8). See Special Topic at 4:6.

▣ "a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" The term "possession" (BDB 688) means a special treasure (cf. Exod. 19:5; Ps. 135:4; Mal. 3:17). This phrase is recurrent in Deuteronomy (cf. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). Please read the SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES at 4:6! From this you will see the way I view the interpretation of Scripture! It shows the integrating center of my worldview (i.e., the Great Commission)!

3"You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. 6Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof split in two and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 7Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, for though they chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. 8The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses."

14:3 "You shall not eat" Verses 3-21 reflect Leviticus 11:2-19, but with differences. It is differences like this which are so hard to explain that have caused the speculation of numerous sources. Notice the verb "eat" (BDB 37, KB 46) is used 17 times in this chapter. See Special Topic below.



▣ "detestable things" This phrase (BDB 481 construct 1072) is also used in Deut. 14:3.

14:5 "the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck" These are wild animals unclean for sacrifice but not for food. They are not mentioned in Leviticus 11 because they were unknown in Egypt. Several are difficult for moderns to identify specifically.

14:6 "Any animal that divides the hoof and. . .chews the cud" This is the basic guideline for a sacrificially clean animal given in Lev. 11:4.

The phrase, "divides the hoof," is an intensified form (verb BDB 828, KB 969, Hiphil perfect construct with the noun BDB 828) as in v. 7. To this description is combined a second intensified form (verb BDB 1042, KB 1608, Qal active participle construct with the noun (BDB 1043). This description is very specific and clear.

Some animals which only partially fulfill the two requirements ("divides the hoof" and "chews the cud") are listed in v. 7.


NKJV"rock hyrax"
NRSV, TEV"rock badger"
NJB, NIV"the coney"
JPSOA"the daman"

This animal (BDB 1050 I) is apparently mentioned in Lev. 11:6 as "hare" or "rabbit." It is interesting that Leviticus says (as assumed here) that the rabbit chews the cud. This is a good place to remind readers that the Israelites based their knowledge of nature on observable characteristic (phenomenological language). Rabbits do not, in actuality, chew the cud, but the rapid movement of their noses look as if they do. This is not an error in the Bible, but the recognition the ancients based their knowledge on observation, not modern, scientific methods.

14:18 "pig" The pig was eaten and used in sacrificial ritual by the Canaanites (cf. Isa. 65:4; 66:3,17). It was classified as unclean because of its eating habits (the same is true for dogs) and preferred resting places (mud holes). Pigs were sacrificed regularly in Hittites, Greek, and Roman cultures. They were also eaten (by some groups) in all of the Mediterranean cultures. For an extended discussion of food and sacrifices of the ancient Near East see ABD, vol. 6, "Zoology," pp. 1109-1167, for pigs, see pp. 1130-1135.

9"These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, 10but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

14:9 "anything that has fins and scales" This is the basic guideline of Lev. 11:9-12. Again the exact reasons for the prohibitions are not given anywhere in the OT. See note at 14:3.

11"You may eat any clean bird. 12But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 13and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, 14and every raven in its kind, 15and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, 16the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, 18the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19And all the teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten. 20You may eat any clean bird."

14:11 This parallels Lev. 11:13-19. The reason for the "uncleanness" is not stated, but it seems obvious that the listed birds ate carrion.

14:18 "hoopoe" This type of bird (BDB 189) eats all kinds of insects, including dung beatles. It became known for its eating in unclean places and having a dung-filled nest, therefore, it became an "unclean" migratory bird.

14:19 "teeming life" This phrase (BDB 481 construct 1056 & 733, cf Gen. 7:14,21) refers to flying insects. This is paralleled in Lev. 11:20-23, where some insects are clean to eat (i.e., locusts, cf. Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6). These insects are the food for many of the unclean birds listed.

21"You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

14:21 "You shall not eat anything which dies of itself" This may reflect Exod. 22:31. One reason was because the blood was still in it (cf. 12:16,23-25; Gen. 9:4). This law did not apply to everyone in the Promised Land (i.e., aliens and foreigners were exempt, but note Lev. 17:15). These food laws were meant to separate Israel from Canaanite society and worship practices.

▣ "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk" The Ras Shamra (see Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Handbook, p. 174) texts show that this was done in other cultures as a symbol of fertility. Judaism developed strict dietary rules (separate cooking vessels and plates for meat and dairy products) based on this verse. However, the thrust seems to relate to Canaanites' sacrificial worship (cf. Exod. 23:19; 34:26). It has little or nothing to do with disease or hygiene.

22"You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, 25then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you."

14:22 "tithe" Numbers 18 discusses the tithes for the local Levites as well as the priests at the central shrine.

However, this passage parallels chapter 12 and deals mostly with local agricultural tithing issues. See notes at chapter 12.

14:23 "at the place where He chooses to establish His name" See full note at 12:5.

14:26 "You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires" This refers to items to be tithed at the central sanctuary. This is parallel to 12:20. This phrase must drive "legalists" crazy! YHWH desires our happiness! He just wants to share it with us (cf. 12:7,18; 16:14; 27:7; I Chr. 29:22; Ps. 104:15; Eccl. 2:24; 3:12,13,22; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-9; Isa. 22:13). The NT even widens this concept by clearly stating that nothing in the physical creation is unclean in and of itself (e.g., Acts 10:15; Rom. 14:2,14,20; I Cor. 6:12; 10:23-33; I Tim. 4:4). This is not meant to give humans a license to sin, but to encourage Christian freedom from legalism and judgmentalism (cf. Col. 2:16-23). However, the mature believer will be careful while in this fallen world to do nothing that might offend a weaker brother for whom Christ died (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13)!

▣ "strong drink" This (BDB 1016) was wine to which other natural fermented juices were added to make the percentage of alcohol higher (i.e. more intoxicating). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALCOHOL (fermentation) AND ALCOHOLISM (addiction)

▣ "there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord" This refers to the peace offering whereby God and the offerer and his family symbolically ate together. In the ancient East, eating together was the sign of covenant.

28"At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do."

14:29 "the alien, the orphan and the widow" Deuteronomy is emphatic in its care of all who lived in the Promised Land (cf. 10:18; 26:12-15)! This third-year tithe was for the Levite and the local poor.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What criteria was used to decide what was clean and what was not?

2. Are these laws from God? If so, why don't we observe them today?

3. What was the purpose of the tithe?


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